French take up Cook's arms challenge

Jack Lang, the President of the French Foreign Affairs Committee, is encouraging the new French Socialist government to follow Tony Blair's lead. Inspired by the "humanity and intelligence" of the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, with regard to his policy on arms sales, Mr Lang has written to the French Foreign and Defence Ministers, Hubert Vedrine and Alain Richard, asking them to do it by the "Cook" book.

On 28 July Mr Cook announced that Britain would stop all arms sales to countries with a poor record on human rights. He also laid down measures for the publication of an annual report on arms exports from Britain and made proposals for a European "code of conduct" on the subject.

The Foreign Secretary has announced his intention to ban the manufacture and sale of all landmines in Britain, as well as destroying all present stocks. Both he and Mr Blair have supported Diana, Princess of Wales's anti-landmine campaign, which she continued most recently in Bosnia.

In a letter made public on Monday, Mr Lang describes the Cook proposals as "an excellent idea" which was "closely linked to our own convictions". He wants to see the two countries working in close consultation on the issues and believes France ought to adopt similar measures, suggesting two major changes in the present French policy on arms.

France currently sells arms to countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Indonesia, all known for their poor human rights record. Mr Lang urges the new Socialist government to ban all arms exports to such repressive regimes, and to continue sales only to countries which pose no risk to international peace or to the safety of their own citizens.

He also recommends that new legislation be passed on landmines, including the modification of a law passed in 1996 by Alain Juppe's right-wing government. As it now stands, the law prohibits, at least in theory, the use of all landmines by the French army. However, they may still be used "in exceptional circumstances for the protection of the French forces". Mr Lang wants this clause scrapped and favours "the complete destruction" of all land mines in France.

In the same vein as Mr Cook's policy on arms export, which is based on the protection of human rights, Mr Lang emphasises in his letter the need for a foreign policy that incorporates a "new ethical vision and a desire for peace".

Mr Lang said he was "extremely impressed" by Mr Blair's approach, and very optimistic for Britain's future under New Labour, which he feels has a "brand new air about it". He describes Mr Blair as "young and full of enthusiasm" and draws parallels between Britain in 1997 and France in 1981, when Francois Mitterrand, France's first Socialist president, came to power after two decades of right-wing rule in an atmosphere of hope and enthusiasm.

There has as yet been no official response to Mr Lang from the French ministers, who are away on holiday. But it is unlikely they will refuse these proposals. Mr Lang is confident the French government will accept them, in accordance with their belief in "social justice".

Leading article, page 13

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back